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There is a certain pride that comes with the answer to, “Are you taking the plunge this year?”
Of all the winter traditions in Door County, few have a group as dedicated - and crazy - as the Jacksonport Polar Bear Plunge. On the first of January every year, hundreds of swimmer take to beach in Jacksonport and ring in the new year with a brisk swim in the frozen waters.
Long time Jacksonport resident J.R. Jarosh brought the plunge to his hometown in 1986 after a bet gone wrong with his father, Joe.
“In 1984 I bet my Dad that I could beat him in the Sister Bay Fall Fest 5 Mile Run,” Jarosh told the Peninsula Pulse. “The loser had to swim in Jacksonport after the race was over. I was 11 and he was 40 at the time. He won, and I swam.”
Within a few years, the event grew to hundreds of participants, with 2017 welcoming nearly 900 swimmers to Jacksonport’s Lakeside Park.
In more than three decades since Jarosh first leapt into the water on New Year’s Day, the event has seen subzero temperatures and ice shoves stacked like barriers to the water, former Packer players and the interest of Hollywood.
“Like many difficult tasks in life, I feel this is more of a mental challenge than a physical one,” said Jarosh. “I can verify that it’s still cold, but I also know that the smile on my face from doing it lasts a lot longer than the goose bumps do.”
Registration begins at Jacksonport’s Lakeside Park on New Year’s Day 10:30am with the plunge at noon. Show up a little early to mentally prepare for a truly mind-numbing experience.
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